Gloria Fein was interviewed by Jordan Kutzik on October 28, 2011 at the Yiddish Book Center. This interview is entirely in Yiddish.
Gloria Fein was born in Munich where her parents, Holocaust Survivors from Lithuania, met after the war. She grew up in Flatbush where she initially attended public school. After having money stolen repeatedly by an older boy, however, her parents decided to enroll her in a yeshiva, even though they were not particularly religious. At the yeshiva, she was taught to translate the Old Testament from Biblical Hebrew into Yiddish and other students from Polish Yiddish-speaking homes made fun of her accent and called her "the shikse." At home she spoke Yiddish with her parents and English with her younger sister, Dina.
In high school she attended a different, more liberal, yeshiva, where she translated the Old Testament into Modern Hebrew. In high school she made a close friend whose mother was "intimate friends" with Isaac Bashevis Singer and through whom she got to meet the famous writer. Among other things, she recalls Singer being the first Jewish vegetarian she had ever encountered. She relates encountering Singer at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel, after which Singer invited her to come back and visit and gave her his room number.
After teaching Spanish to high school students in New York she immigrated to the Netherlands where she has lived for most of her life. In the Netherlands she has worked as both an English teacher and a translator but is now working for the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. She relates the history of the separate Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities in Amsterdam and what work is like at the museum. When asked why she chose to be interviewed in Yiddish, she said that she wanted people to hear what the language sounded like and that it was appropriate since she was discussing events which happened in Yiddish.
To learn more about the Wexler Oral History Project, visit: http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/tell-your-story